Biography of Arthur Penn (1922-VVVV)

Director of American cinema, born in Philadelphia (United States), on September 27, 1922.


It is not surprising that this director, of ruso-judia descent, has given to the film so many gorgeous portraits of memorable characters. Theatre interested to Penn from the Institute and would take his inclination for the scene to Fort Jackson, where it was used during the second world war. He would later join the theatrical company of Joshua Logan and completed his studies in Italy, in the Actor's Studio, under the guidance of Michael Chekhov. Penn was, first and foremost, actor. Then it was on television. For NBC, he worked as Alderman on the Colgate Comedy Hour, and before two years had begun writing and directing dramas for Philco Playhouse, a television space that adapted novels, dramas, original and even musical stories of Broadway, theater. Other directors such as Delbert Mann and Robert Mulligan also began their careers there. In 1951 he began also to participate in the Goodyear Television Playhouse series, considered one of the best television shows, which lasted more or less until 1957. But the decisive year for Penn was 1958. Broadway applauded him: Two for the Seesaw would be only the first of many theatrical successes. In addition, that same year directed his first film.

American legends, or more accurately, the legendary characters, have known a treatment at Penn cinema. The way how the outlaws become heroes in the eyes of the public is that earned him their commercial successes, but also was the cause of a controversy ignited by the practitioners of double standards. The southpaw (1958) and Bonnie and Clyde (1967), are separated by more than a decade, but both are printed the same label. The first, which marked the film debut of the director, the rules of the traditional western skips to develop a psychological study on the character of the novel by Gore Vidal, that Paul Newman infers a provocative attitude with his mere presence. The second also follows a series of atypical patterns that involve in the genre of the western to other factors. Bonnie and Clyde was not intended to Arthur Penn, but to François Truffaut, chosen by the two screenwriters, Robert Benton and David Newman, who wanted to see the plotted story European-style. But Truffaut was directing Fahrenheit 451, and the project passed to Jean-Luc Godard, who not recognized with the screenwriters. It was Warren Beatty, who fell in love with the character, who decided to produce the film and hired Penn, with whom he had already worked in harassed (1965), to direct. Penn is the couple of outlaws not only through his performances, but also behind the scenes, allowing you to connect with their most personal problems, attend his death recreating the small details and prepare them as those "illegal heroes" with which the viewer can identify sometimes.

That treatment of the heroes, although another degustation, already had place in the Chase (1966), which rises paradoxically as a choral film with characters more individualists who has given the film. The Chase is perhaps the example of history that grows to difficulties (many heads and a suffocating producer: Sam Spiegel), and whose stormy shooting leads to a perfect gear, although also supposedly difficult coexistence of so many star.

Not always the experimentation or atypical narrative has led you to Penn the same result. Hounded (1965) created links between Beatty and the director, but the public was identified with them. Surreal incursions that Penn made a paranoid character because of the persecution that object feels, was one of the lowest moments of the director. Perhaps because of its excessive involvement in history, leaving aside the Viewer; the key could be in the words of the character: "I am guilty of not be innocent". But not even the excellent soundtrack of jazz helped.

The restaurant of Alice (1969) also ran the risk of skating, but enjoyed a sort of different, giving Penn a nomination to the Oscar as best director. The fact that it was a musical comedy was a weapon double-edged in Hollywood, although Penn, as well as the song by Arlo Guthrie, who gives title to the film, connected with the spirit of the sixties, something that would do with Georgia (1981), through a group of University students. A year after the restaurant of Alice, Penn took another risk: little big man (1970) was perhaps one of the first films in portraying the Indian people as something more than eternal and bloodthirsty enemies. The efforts of Dustin Hoffman - who says he cried for more than one hour to get the voice of more than a hundred-year-old man - also contributed to the success. Yet it was another, Chief Dan George, who took two nominations (the Oscar and the Golden Globes) best supporting actor. It was the way that the Academy said that it also respected the Indian people.

Penn not only demonstrates the mastery of the craft in the mixture of genres, but in classical formats. Missouri (1976) is a western where redirects to Brando, the indomitable sheriff of the Chase. The miracle of Anna Sullivan (1962) adapts a drama of William Gibson beating the previous version, Deliverance (1919), and laying the groundwork for a later television version in 1979. Penn chooses black and white to stay alone with their two female characters and make them both, Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke, winning two Oscars. And even a comedy taking place in his filmography: Penn & Teller Get Killed (1989), another of his commercial failures, which also did raise the eyebrow of the critics.

But it is perhaps the thriller genre that uses more proficiently. In 1975 the night moves, with Gene Hackman, a pessimistic story that evaluates the America back to the Watergate scandal. Ten years later he repeated gender and actor. Double agent in Berlin (1985) is commercial and unpretentious, a work of step where however the director shows the domain which has already, over the years, of the action. In 1987 death in the winter returns to tempt the remedy of the "remake", this time My name is Julia Ross, who in 1945 had led Joseph H. Lewis and starring Nina Foch. Death in winter has Mary Steenburgen to interpret an actress who was apparently hired to star in a movie, but that actually has to meet a woman abducted and killed. Penn is served on this occasion of the scenery to provide a disturbing backdrop to the story. With an expressionist intention, the architecture of the House, their mirrors, its stairs, becomes the best support of a claustrophobic story.

In his last works, Penn uses new literary authors. The Portrait (1993), a work for television based on the play by Tina Howe, retrieves nostalgically to Gregory Peck and Lauren Bacall, assuming the risk, not only resurrect old glories, but dive into a deep story, away from commercial cannons, which returned to one of his favorite things: the study of characters. His latest work, an effort that is notable for adapting to the times and get involved politically, faces it experiences collecting by Bima Stagg in his novel about the history of a low official the merco apartheid torture a political prisoner South African, to be, ten years later, in the place of the prisoner.


As a director

1958: The zurdo.1962: the miracle of Anna Sullivan.1965: Acosado.1966: humana.1967 Pack: Bonnie and Clyde.1969: Alicia.1970 restaurant: small large Hombre.1973: Visions of Eight.1975: the night is mueve.1976: Missouri.1981: Georgia (and producer). 1985: double agent at berlin.1987: death in the invierno.1989: Penn & Teller Get Killed.1995: Lumière and compania.1996: Inside.

As an actor

1996: Marlon Brando: The Wild One (TV). 1995: Arthur Penn.

Works for television

1948: The Philco Television Playhouse (series). 1951: Goodyear Television Playhouse (series). 1993: The Portrait.


VERNAGLIONE, p.: Arthur Penn. (Rome: the new Italy, 1988).

WOOD, r.: Arthur Penn. (Madrid: Editorial Fundamentos, 1971).